Walk Two Moons: Discussion

The following is a combination of threads on both rec.arts.books.childrens and CHILDLIT listserv. Walk Two Moons was the 1995 Newbery winner.

All rights reserved for individual contributors.


8 Mar 1995, fairrosa

Finally! March 7th and I have something to say… But, I’m saving my personal opinions for later. I’d like to throw out some questions to start this session:

1. What do you think of Sharon Creech’s writing skill?
2. Did you/Would you predict it as a Newbery winner? If yes, based on what merits and values, if no, why?
3. What do you think of the “parrellel” story line structure? Do you feel it flows naturally, it manipulates, or it limits your own interpretations?
4. Are the stories for both girls convincing?
5. What do you think of Phoebe’s family? Are they real characters or flat characters serving only as devices for Salamanca to have some “revelations?”
6. As a whole, do you feel any of the characters convincing?
7. Can you think of another book that treats similar subject but does a betther/worse job? (Suggestion: another Newbery winner –_Missing May_.)
8. What do you think about the ending?
I’ll come back and enjoy ALL THE MANY POSTS on this title!!! See you later.

Sat, 11 Mar 1995, Beth Mitcham

I liked this book. Of course, I knew it was a Newbery winner when I checked it out, so that may have influenced me. And I tend to enjoy complicated tales.I really enjoyed the many layers of story. The trip across the states to retrace her mother’s journey, the story of her budding romance, the complicated stories her friend makes up, the real story the friend’s mother is living, and the story of the mother’s disappearance.I didn’t find the old people dangerous, just eccentric and determined to stay that way. They provided a sense of stability through their love for each other, despite their crazy ways.Every character in the story had a life, which created a rich atmosphere. Too often only the main characters get motivations, while cardboard constucts fill in the gaps.

Is this story being marketed as an American Indian story? That should surprise me, I guess.

So far the only Newbery awardee I haven’t read is _Catherine Called Birdy_ I’ll try to read that this weekend.

14 Mar 1995, fairrosa

Beth Mitcham (ejmam@netcom.com) wrote:: I didn’t find the old people dangerous, just eccentric and : determined to stay that way. They provided a sense of : stability through their love for each other, despite their : crazy ways.

I also think that the old people are only eccentric, or at least, the author wishes to make them more eccentric and interesting than dangerous or irresponsible. I admire that intention. However, I found it quite un-convincing that they can’t pronounce Phoebe’s name. It’s not that unusual a name, is it? Or does the author want to stress the fact that they are native Americans so they can’t say regular American names right? But, I can’t hear any “accents” in other places. In fact, I can’t really hear distinctive “voices” of the characters but only many repeated vocabulary.

: Every character in the story had a life, which created a rich : atmosphere. Too often only the main characters get motivations, : while cardboard constucts fill in the gaps.

Hmmm…I thought that Salamanca’s story is very “real” but Phoebe’s seems to be very 1-dimensional and more like a TV movie than “real.”

7 Mar 1995, Sharon Whiting

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had started this book before it was given the medal, and gave it up. I found it unbelievable that any old man would disconnect all the hoses from a stranded motorists car, calling them snakes. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I thought it malicious. Then he checks his wife out of a hospital to continue a cross country jaunt, when clearly her health is failing. It never occurs to him that she might die, until she does. And two old people strip and run into a roadside stream? I couldn’t buy that either.What kind of father would entrust his only child to a lunatic couple like that after having lost his wife? In all other issues he seemed like a caring and thoughtful man. And she is endangered, risking her life in the car drive down the canyon.

I find it difficult to follow the logic why this is being called a Native American story. Her name is Indian, as are her ancestors. That doesn’t make it a Native American story, any more than a story about me would be a German story.There were so many stories running through this book, that I couldn’t answer the old question: “Whose story is it?” There were three dominant storylines: Phoebe, Sal and the trip. And then there was Ben and his visit to the mental hospital to see his mother, as if we needed more story lines. And then there was the “potential lunatic” and the mysterious messages, the relationship between the teacher and Mrs. Cadaver, ad infinitum.

A friend encouraged me to stick with the book, that it gets better at about half way. What kid is going to stick with it until half way?!

On the other side, an eighth grade girl returned Catherine Called Birdy yesterday and loved it. I told her there was a companion book coming and she was delighted.

I think Walk Two Moons is going to be another dust gatherer like Missing May. Okay, okay. Go ahead and tell me how wrong I am…

11 Mar 1995, Linnea M Hendrickson

I, too, liked Walk Two Moons. I found the grandparents entirely believable and likeable. Since I think of literature as a way of making up stories that help us make sense of life, I loved the layers of stories in the book, each one from an individual’s perspective. Phoebe’s “perfect” family and all too “perfect” mother made wonderful sense given the mother’s hidden past. Sal and Phoebe were both trying to discover “the truth,” but their own preconceptions and concerns as adolescents inter- fered. I loved the suggestions that Sal’s mother and father were counter-culture types, rather free spirits. It also fit that the grandparents were free spirits, too. I loved the stories the grandparents told from their own past. Gran’s death at the end became another experience in facing and accepting death for Sal — we see she has matured.The playing with the “real truth” reminds me more of Cormier than it does of Missing May. Perhaps I AM the Cheese would be a good comparison.

I also liked that it was the grandparents who were able to take Sal on her journey to the truth. Her father, being closer to both Sal and her mother, was unable to do this.

21 Mar 95, Elizabeth Kuzina

I am a late comer to this DG topic (sorry fairrosa, you know I am a huge supporter of the DG!) so I’m sorry if I’m saying anything that has already been said…One thing that I have noticed people saying is that they were expecting, either from the cover, the summary, or the publicity, that Walk Two Moons would be a “Native American” book. Several people seemed dissappointed that this book wasn’t *more* Native American.I found this aspect of the novel to be one of the most interesting things about it! By having a family who has some Native American roots, Creech has shown a very common thing — many people in America today aren’t 100%, or even 50% or 25% anything in particular. It seems likely that a person like Sal, who has an awareness of the Indian heritage on her mother’s side, would respond to the situations in WTM just the way Creech described. In particular, I am thinking of Sal asking the Indian if he is a “Native AMerican person,” and her confused feelings about the Native AMerican/American Indian/Indian language issue. I also liked how Sal, her mother, and her grandmother had Native names, especially after we learn how strait-laced her grandmother is.

People don’t have to live on a reservation or be of 100% Native blood to feel a link to Native culture!

Wed, 22 Mar 1995, Beth Mitcham

Robin Del wrote: “I think my only disappointment was that it wasn’t a Native American story at all – and I don’t think adding that element to it had any bearing on the story. I’m not sure why the author felt the need to include it – unless it was to try to make it fit the multicultural mold. If so, it didn’t.”Everyone keeps mentioning how disappointed they were in the Native American aspect of the book. Can anyone tell me who is marketing it as a multicultural book? The author, the publisher, the libraries?If you don’t judge it as a “Native American” story, the element makes sense in the story – you would expect this family to treasure any fraction of American Indian blood. They obviously aren’t active members of a tribe – look at how they picked Salamaca’s name! Hey, I bring up my Irish-American blood every Saint Patrick day (and the German, and the English, and a squeeze some French in there too), but it’s not like I’m an authentic whatever.

Where does the judging of _Walk Two Moons_ as an Indian story start? Because of the name, or the moccasins in the newpaper fortune?

27 Mar 1995, Vicki Merrill

I must admit that I read this book very quickly, but I did find it hard to get into and then once I got into it very quickly figured out how it would end and wondered if the clues would be as obvious to young readers. I didn’t figure out all the details, but certainly knew that the mother was dead and that the “stranger” was a child given up for adoption. Since it is not in my library yet, I have not been able to talk to a student who has read it and am curious, as others seem to be, to know how it will be received.I was also uncomfortable with the whole peace pipe scene and wondered if anyone can comment on it or can bring to it knowledge I certainly do not have.

27 Mar 1995, Linnea Hendrickson

Concerning the Native American aspects of Walk Two Moons, there has just been a fascinating discussion of terminology on the folklore listserve. The issue started with a question on “American Indian folk music” to which someone responded, among other things, that why was the reference to American Indian and not Native American. At least one, possibly two other people wrote in that they didn’t know any Native Americans who called themselves “Native American” but either called themselves “Indian” or “American Indian” or the name of their tribe. Another person wrote in that she called herself a “halfbreed.”I, for one, enjoyed the Native American elements, although they were quite slight, in Walk Two Moons. The vagueness of the connection, the fact that Sal’s parents didn’t even get her name right, and then the discussion about preferring to be called Indian rather than Native American rang true to me. I’ve heard countless people proudly claim “I’ve got some Indian blood,” even if they don’t know much beyond that “fact.”I pinpointed Sal’s parents as being either New Agers or left-over hippies, and both groups laid claim to, and co-opted Native American traditions.

28 Mar 1995, Jane E Kurtz

I’ll weigh in as someone who was captivated by WALK TWO MOONS, even though I didn’t expect to like it from having read the reviews. The voice grabbed me right from the beginning and didn’t let go. I was in a strange hotel room on a speaking engagement when I woke up at 3:00 in the morning, picked up the book and finished it, and was glad I was all alone so I could cry noisily for three pages. I’d completely agree that the alternating story uses flat, stereotypical characters, but I didn’t find that bothering me as I accepted it as yarn, the kind of story you hear people weaving at bars and such…high on plot and low on subtlety. As far as the Native American/Indian bit, the GRAND FORKS HERALD runs a column by a Lakota newspaper editor and one of his recent columns said basically the same thing that Sal says, so that rang true to me. Grandpa and grandma felt real to me and refreshingly idiosyncratic. Mostly, I’m thinking something that came gut-level home to me through a comment by somebody on this list: our reactions to books are amazingly subjective and personal, a good thing to remember when we’re thinking about what books we, personally, would just as soon not see on the shelves somewhere. (I’ve very much wanted my 11-year-old daughter to read it and give me some kid feedback, but so far no luck. She says, “I think it’s one of those books that I won’t want to read but after I start, I’ll be glad I did.” I can’t get her to pinpoint where the resistance to reading it comes from–too bad, because that’s fascinating me.)

29 Mar 1995, Kaia Wood

I’m so glad you’ve opened a discussion of Walk Two Moons. I read it recently, and was surprised at the quality and readability. I thought that Creech successfully combined not only two plots but also many facets of pre-teen living without bogging down this enjoyable book. Yes, I too reached for the tissue box, but to me, that is a mark of good literature, when an undeniable emotional attachment to the characters is formed I know I’ve read a good book. It is fresh and traditional at the same time. One of my collegues mentioned that the journey theme and Grandparent/Grandchild relations reminded her of Rylant’s Missing May. I personally have no objections to this winning the Newbery, and am happy to say I will recommend it to any ten and up looking for a good story.

29 Mar 1995, Kaia Wood

Definately don’t tell the kids that it is hard to get into. I think this attitude is contagious. I had no trouble getting into it and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to “Peeby.” I also disagree with “warning” kids about the book. What is the fear here? That a kids will commit suicide after reading a sad book? That’s ridiculous. I love a good crying book. I did as a kid too. Besides, most of the book is not said, but rather intriguing and somewhat humorous.

30 Mar 95, Peter D. Sieruta

Hello. I’ve been following (with mounting horror) the discussions of WALK TWO MOONS on the listserves. With each new posting that states how much the writer “LOVED” the book, or how it was “one of the best books I’ve ever read,” I have become more and more depressed. Then I read your dissenting opinion on the novel and just wanted to tell you “thanks.” I was so glad to learn there is at least one person out there who doesn’t agree with the crowd. I’ve read all the Newbery books and, in my opinion, WALK TWO MOONS is the worst selection ever. Worse than GAY-NECK, worse than THE DARK FRIGATE. I think it’s an awful book, and I’m shocked to see how the imprimatur of the gold Newbery seal has swayed so many people into believing this is a good book. I agreed with most of your comments, and have a few problems I’d like to mention. I thought the story concerned adults and adult problems, more than the children’s problems. The eccentricity of the characters masked what I felt was minimal character development. The wordplay (carbusterator, grandiful) was sophomoric and cloying. The story struck me as very obvious, as if I was being hit over the head with every theme. The simple fact that Sal’s and Phoebe’s stories ran parallel was unlikely at best. The whole premise of the story was convoluted and strained, with an annoying dependence on contrivances and coincidences (such as Sal taking the bus to the college and her male friend JUST HAPPENING to take the same bus at the same time, and his destination being right next door to hers.) If I heard the words “Gooseberry” or “Chickabiddy” one more time I was about to upchuck! I really hated the contrived revelation that Mrs. Cadaver was the teacher’s sister. I mean, if Cadaver was that close to Sal’s family, and her brother visited her house regularly, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Cadaver would at some point say to the brother, “Oh, my friend’s daughter Sal goes to your school. Do you know her?” Perhaps what I hated most of all was when Cadaver revealed how she came to know the father…and then Sal keeps this information from the reader for another fifty pages! Very unfair. Also, wasn’t it odd that the bus would still be hanging off the cliff a year later, easily accessible to a kid who could climb down the hill to reach it? And the scene itself–Creech’s one chance for high drama–completely falls flat. She goes inside the bus, walks through, and the scene wimps out in less than three or four paragraphs. And how realistic was it that Sal, a neighbor girl, would be allowed to attend Phoebe’s family reunion when the mother returns home? Would anyone want a neighbor involved in something so personal? Many people have talked about the Native American aspect of the novel, and I found that irksome as well. We are repeatedly told that Sal’s mother reads about Indians all the time, yet she misnames her daughter because she didn’t know the name of the Indian tribe…? You mentioned the writing was clumsy. I thought the writing was quite clumsy, but more than that, it was insipid. The prose didn’t sing the way we would expect from a book deemed “most distinguished.” ..Anyway, those are some of my complaints about the book and I just wanted to share them because I am so upset at the number of people who seem to be embracing Thanks for listening and for posting your refreshingly honest comments on WALK TWO MOONS.*Note: This one and the following posts are “personal” responses arriving directly at my mailbox, but I still think a lot of what Peter said here is worth to be shared.

31 Mar 95, Peter D. Sieruta

Thanks for your response. I’m sorry my note sounded angry, but must admit that I AM quite angry about this year’s selection. The strident tone of my note was probably due to the fact that my initial response to the book–both emotionally and critically–has not been confirmed by the majority of people who are posting to the list. Whereas I expected an outpouring of shock and anger over this year’s Newbery winner, instead we’ve been treated to a series of love letters to WALK TWO MOONS. I find it so disconcerting. There have been many Newbery winners that I’ve found sub-par, but this is the first one that I would actually call poorly written. And no one seems to notice that! My Horn Book friends tell me that those who are hailing this novel will soon be singing another tune when they realize that children will neither like nor appreciate this book.

31 Mar 1995, Karen E Traynor

I also thought of “Missing May” after reading “Walk Two Moons”! Obviously there is the common theme of the death of a loved one, and the grandparent characters, and the rural, colloquial settings, but there is also a certain element that made both stories “work” that I can’t quite put my finger on.I had not read any of the published reviews, just the comments on this list. I thought all of the elements of the story came together nicely, they did not seem contrived at all. In fact, I remembering thinking how hard it must have been to write it, keeping both stories straight and not give away the ending.I just completed an internship with a Native American organization. In the time I spent there I noticed that, in publications for the general public, “Native American” was used, but the actual members referred to themselves as Indian, or by the name of their tribe in their own publications and when speaking. The term Native American, although more politically correct given how the term “Indian” came into being, somehow seems too sterile. So I was not surprised to see the discussion of the term in Walk Two Moons. In my limited experience, it was an accurate concern.

31 Mar 1995, Saroj Ghoting

I agree with the Kirkus review, that there was too much coincidence at the end; it became rather didactic. I also found that Sal’s percepetions and philosophy were wise beyond her years. Some thirteen year olds may sense these connections but would they articulate them this way? In general I liked the book. The author may have done better by inserting an omniscient narrator.

28 Mar 1995, fairrosa

We had a low-volume discussion on WTM in r.a.b.c.I’m one of the readers that didn’t “LOVE” the book. I was very annoyed by all the “lessons” and “revelations” spelled out and shoveled down my throat. Once the story is finished and the book is closed, there’s nothing left for me to ponder over and re-relish. I also think that Phoebe’s family is too much of a TV mini-series (or TV movie) type and that all the members in that family seem to be really flat and the reason that they are there is just for the parallel-story design. I didn’t feel anything for Phoebe, her mother, or her father. It seems to me a gimmick more than a sincere telling of Phoebe’s story. I know that this is Sal’s story…but, the fact is that Phoebe’s takes up quite some portion of the book.I also just finished _The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm_ and liked it a lot. For people who include the “complexity” and “layers” of WTM as reasons for appreciating the Newbery winner, _The Ear_ offers much more satisfying craftsmanship in these aspects. It’s a story of Tendai, of The Arm, of the She Elephant, of the Vlei People, of the Mellower, and of human hearts and societies. And, it’s done so subtly that I still can pick out small passages and savor and come up with new meanings after closing the book. (I am going to recommend this title and see how children react to it…It is long. 300+ pages, larger sized, and small print.)

28 Mar 1995, fairrosa

On Mon, 27 Mar 1995, Marsha Rehkamp wrote: “This book reminded me alot of another of my favorites- Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May: the metaphor(? do I have that right) of physical travel mirroring the emotional journey to acceptance; and the subplot of the ever-renewing cycle of life (in the first fumbling steps towards young love).”I also thought about _Missing May_ as I read and finished WTM and I had totally the opposite reaction: Rylant has such talent and the passages and emotions are so sincere and moving while Creech’s writing seems clumsy at times. I thought: if we’ve already had _Missing May_, why need _WTM_? Of course, it is also all personal tastes.I think the best descriptions and treament in this book is the parts about Sal and the boy (sorry, name forgotten :p) The small gestures and gentle feelings are wonderful. If only he doesn’t have to preach about how Sal doesn’t like being touched. *sigh*

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